Sunday in Chicago we had a reservation for brunch at Table Fifty-Two. It is owned by Chef Art Smith who also competed in Top Chef Masters Season 1. He was one of my favorites. He's also Oprah's personal chef! I just thought he was so lovable on the show. Super sweet guy and puts love in everything he makes. Plus the food he made just sounded so yummy.
52 West Elm Street
Chicago, IL 60610
Price (for brunch): $$-$$$
Table Fifty-Two was definitely at the top of my list. It was the first reservation I made before I even booked my flight! I was so excited that I got the time I wanted. And I specifically wanted to go on Sunday because I heard that he only makes his fried chicken on Sundays. :)
We arrived 5 minutes early and were immediately seated. The restaurant was so cute. Bright, quaint and homey. The dining area was a little crammed since it was a small space but that also added to the homey-ness of that southern cooking feel. Everything seemed so promising...
After we were seated...it took a long time for anyone to greet us. Several waiters and assistants walked around the room, we were served waters, but none of them really greeted us. Err...? Finally our waiter came to the table to take our drink orders.
We were served some Sweet Potato Bread (with cinnamon butter) after we ordered.
It was so cute. The bread was moist and slightly sweet. With the cinnamon butter it was yummy! I was soo looking forward to the main course.
My bf ordered the Shrimp and Grits (Wild Gulf shrimp, Stone Ground grits, spicy tomato stew) $16~
There were 5 pieces of shrimp on there but they weren't very big. The ratio of shrimp to grits was definitely unbalanced. The grits were different than what we're used to in Dallas. The individual grains were bigger than the grits I've had before. I think because they were bigger it was a bit more firm almost like they were undercooked. But I liked that kind of texture so I was ok with it. The tomato sauce was a bit too tart. My bf said it would've been better if they had a bit of greens on top to add some freshness or something. It was good, not great.
One friend ordered the Crispy Pork Belly (fried egg, watercress, pickled okra, green tomato relish, dill aioli) $12~
This was my second choice but of course I had to get the fried chicken. The presentation was very fun and artistic. It was a small portion but everything was good. The pork belly had a nice crispy outside. The egg was cooked well where the yolk just oozed out when you cut into it. I liked the garnish and aioli with the pork flavors too. It was quite tasty.
I had to get the Fried Chicken and Waffles (Burton Farm Maple Syrup) $24~
One of my friends ordered it as well. When they served it, I got 2 pieces of chicken like it should be but my friend's plate only had one. My friend was so confused and had to ask the waiter why he only got 1 piece of chicken... They didn't even notice that the dish was incomplete? How did they even let it leave the kitchen?? And the waiter didn't really react when my friend asked him about the second piece. He was just like "oh. ok. We'll get you another piece." Quite unprofessional... The dish is pretty straight forward. The chicken was extremely tender and I liked the batter, but I wanted the shell to be crispier. It was almost like it was baked rather than fried. The seasoning was light so you could really taste the chicken flavor. I liked that. The waffle was pretty standard. I wish it was a bit crispier. I asked for some Tabasco and it definitely made the dish better with the spicy and tangy flavor.
We also got Biscuits and Gravy $8~ for the table.
I enjoyed the gravy a lot! It went well with everything! I ate it with the biscuits, with some of my waffles and even the grits. It was great. The biscuits had a crispy shell and I liked that. My friends kinda wanted a more fluffy biscuit though.
We also ordered an Apple Pie Doughnut $7~
I've been seeing on facebook before the trip that Table Fifty-Two makes their own doughnuts on the weekends. That sounds awesome. So we got one as dessert. We asked the waiter when we placed our orders to serve it at the end of the meal.
After we finished the entrees, we had a table full of dirty dishes. Waiters, including ours, walked around us but didn't seem like anyone noticed that our table wasn't cleared yet. We were getting a little annoyed with the lack of service. Especially our waiter...who was very aloof the entire time. Finally we saw our him walk back towards us and my friend spoke up and said "Can you please clear our table?" And the waiter goes "That's what I'm going to do" kinda snarky-like. WTF! It was quite unacceptable.
The doughnut took a longgg time to come out. I actually had to tell the waiter after our main course that we were ready for it. The timing was really bad on their part. Finally it came out and looked great. I cut it into fours and it was raw in the middle. Gooey raw dough and the apple filling only went about half way. If it's a filled doughnut then it should be fully filled. And it wasn't cooked! At first we thought maybe it was a cream filling, but it sure wasn't! We called the waiter over and showed it to him. His reaction was not good. He was just like "oh. sorry. we'll get you a new one." Not really very apologetic or anything. Ridiculous. By now we were all kinda pissed. But we waited... and got our new doughnut. This time it was cooked through but the filling was still only half way. The outside crust was nice and crunchy and the inside was fluffy, but not enough filling and not sweet enough.
They comped the doughnut, as they should. But the overall service and lack of attention was just incredibly bad. I was so disappointed. I was so excited about this place because Chef Art Smith always talked about putting your passion and love into the food. I would expect his restaurant to share the same characteristics. I still like Chef Art as the person I saw on Top Chef, but this experience has wavered that perception a bit. The food was actually pretty good but the service just ruined the meal. Needless to say I won't be recommending this place to anyone... :(
Quality of Food:
~~ CHOMP CHOMP ~~